As the Liberals prepare a “fiscal snapshot” this afternoon that will lay out how the pandemic is affecting government finances and the deficit, the prime minister defended the federal government’s spending on COVID-19 relief, reiterating his belief that many Canadians needed the help.
Justin Trudeau says nearly 11 million Canadians have been supported through the emergency wage subsidy or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and states that the government willingly took on debt to reduce the debt to Canadians themselves.
“We were able to do this because Canada entered this crisis on strong footing,” said Trudeau, who stated that Canada had a net debt to GDP ratio considerably lower than the rest of the G7 (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union) when the pandemic hit.
“Our government was well-positioned to be there for Canadians and lay the groundwork for our economy to bounce back.”
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Trudeau notes that the national number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths is continuing to decline, but says there are still hotspots in some parts of the country, including in long-term care facilities and agricultural work settings.
When asked about the deficit, which the parliamentary budget office has suggested could be as deep as $252 billion, Trudeau defended what he says was a “very specific and deliberate choice” to help Canadians after many seemingly lost their jobs overnight due to the pandemic.
“If the federal government hadn’t taken on significant debt in order to send money to Canadians, to support businesses and households, what would Canadians have done? They would’ve loaded up their credit cards — they would’ve scrambled to try and find ways to pay their bills, pay their groceries, and figure out how to care for their loved ones,” the prime minister said.
“We took on debt so Canadians wouldn’t have to.”
Trudeau said the government can be confident about its position on financial aid, which he says has worked to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep the number of cases under control.
Total spending on emergency aid by last count amounted to over $174 billion, but the Liberals have yet to put a figure on the deficit for the fiscal year.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau is set to release what the government’s fiscal and economic snapshot looks like this afternoon.
With files from The Canadian Press